By Quentin H. / August 3rd, 2020
Even as we march ever-closer to the launch of the PlayStation 5, there are still plenty of gaming experiences that are coming exclusively to the PlayStation 4 console. One of them is an indie title, which happened to be the winner of the V PlayStation Talents Award, called A Tale of Paper. I conducted an e-mail interview with Raul Roldan Pastor, Open House Games’ co-founder and 3-D animator, to talk about developing the game, what it is like developing this title as newly-minted developers in Spain, and more.
A Tale of Paper will be released soon exclusively for the PlayStation 4.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Operation Rainfall: Could you please introduce [yourself]?
Raul Roldan Pastor: We are Open House Games[,] a small indie company composed by 3 young and enthusiastic video game lovers eager to grow as a team and doing what we most love, making indie games.
OR: What is A Tale of Paper about?
RRP: A Tale Of Paper is an emotional adventure of a paper boy who will use origami to fulfill the dream of his creator.
“We wanted to make an adventure for everyone and step away from the horror/thriller theme that most of these games had (Limbo, Inside, Little Nightmares…) and make it a tale that anyone could play.“
OR: You chose to tell the story in A Tale of Paper without text. Why did you go this route to tell Line’s story? How has this storytelling decision shaped how you build the world around Line so you can still both communicate and connect the game’s plot and emotions effectively with the player?
RRP: As a small team we had to be very aware of our technical and budget limitations so instead of focusing our efforts on writing lines of dialogue and then hiring voice actors and translating everything to different languages, we decided to focus on storytelling through the multiple scenarios. All the story [is] told in a universal language: images.
This also seemed to us that it added an extra level of complexity to the game because all what you see is somehow related to the main plot and makes the player think all the time about the meaning of why or what does it imply that something is there[.] [F]or example, you start the game on a house full of boxes and no one around so the player can wonder what has happened there.
This type of storytelling also has its cons[.] [S]ometimes the player can get lost in the story, and maybe some questions are left unanswered. Although we see some of this as pros, because once the player has finished the game it leaves it thinking about what the true meaning of the story is and this can lead to each person having its own theory.
Nowadays we are in the final steps of the development and we can say that anything isn’t there for no reason, everything has its sense, which definitely has been one of the biggest challenges of the development.
OR: Line can transform into various origami shapes to solve puzzles through the game. How did you pick what origami pieces to include in the game, and did you fold any origami in real life while working on A Tale of Paper? If so, what was that real life folding experience like?
RRP: At first when we were choosing what shapes should we use we also thought of the practical use of them inside the game[.] [F]or example, the frog was chosen because it makes sense that it would jump higher, the plane we all understand that is able to glide and so on… We thought of the mechanics we wanted to have in our game and then look for the ideal shape for each one of them.
As for folding origami ourselves[,] there wasn’t much of that but we had to do extensive research to further understand the world of paper crafting and the multiple shapes and objects that could be done.
OR: Are there any types of origami transformations you wanted to include in the game, but could not?
RRP: We have had many ideas of shapes that we wanted to make, for example we had a whole concept for a paper boat but it didn’t make it to the final version of the game because of lack of time but we left the idea there for, maybe, future DLC.
OR: In the second Developer’s Blog, you all talked about how Little Nightmares was the game that inspired A Tale of Paper as a class project called PaperBoy. What specifically about Little Nightmares spoke to you as inspiration? Why did you choose to move away from the horror and terror presented in that game by Tarsier Studios to a much lighter-in-emotion and warmer-in-heart them in A Tale of Paper?
RRP: Little Nightmares is our main inspiration because we loved the perspective that the game has and how the scenarios surround the character with its atmospheric ambi[a]nce. Also being such a small character in such a big world and the fragility that Six conveys inspired us to make Line, and being [it’s] made of paper is even more fragile and vulnerable.
We wanted to make an adventure for everyone and step away from the horror/thriller theme that most of these games had (Limbo, Inside, Little Nightmares…) and make it a tale that anyone could play.
OR: You originally released a (no longer available) demo of A Tale of Paper on itch.io back in May 2018. What was the response like to the demo, and what did you decide to change in the final game as a result of the feedback?
RRP: We received a lot of positive feedback from the itch.io community. [I]n less than a week[,] we were top 4 most popular games on the website and many YouTube videos and Twitch streams started to appear where the players did not only enjoy it but also wanted more from the game. That and the help from our university mentors made us think that developing the title and working full-time on A Tale of Paper was worth it.
“Just like Line, we’re a small team but we have the motivation and the tools that help us during our journey and we will eventually complete our goals and dreams.”
OR: What has it been like having only three people to work on this game? What has been your most unexpected challenge so far developing A Tale of Paper?
RRP: As we said before we are practically newborns as game developers, and one of the most challenging thing[s] has been having to port the game to a PS4 without any previous experience on it. That would be undoubtedly the most unexpected challenge we found along the way, even though we knew we had to port it to a PS4 since the beginning we didn’t knew the process or how it worked until we got into it.
OR: As you mentioned in your first Developer Blog, you started as “three young independent developers just out of college with zero work experience.” Since then, you’ve won Best Game at the 2018 PlayStation Talents Awards and you’ve been developing A Tale of Paper exclusively for the PlayStation 4 as a development company in Spain. What is the most practical advice you’ve learned ‘on the job’ so far that you weren’t taught at ENTi-UB?
RRP: The most important thing that we learned from our mistakes is that you must make a very good and detailed planification when it comes to developing. Having the plot, characters, world, abilities, perks, bosses, mechanics… everything must be planned and established before getting into development. If you change and do things on the go it’s more than probable that you’ll end up delaying and even getting rid from lots of work which implies losing a lot of time.
And also, you must know your limits. We all want to make bigger and better games but if you can’t, you can’t. Work with what you have and make the most of it, it’s important that you know what can you do and what you don’t.
OR: Donald M. Murray once wrote: “All my writing -and yours- is autobiographical.” What of yourselves do you see in A Tale of Paper?
RRP: We see ourselves as ambitious as Line, trying to accomplish the dream of its creator. For us, it’s making our own videogames and accomplishing the dream of living from them.
We always believed in ourselves even if we don’t have that much experience in this industry. We learn fast and we like to overcome the obstacles that we find through the development, based on trial and error.
Just like Line, we’re a small team but we have the motivation and the tools that help us during our journey and we will eventually complete our goals and dreams.
OR: Spain does not immediately come to mind as a powerhouse country for game development like the United States or Japan. What do you think of the overall game industry in Spain at the moment, and how has it changed since you started working on A Tale of Paper back at ENTi-UB in 2017?
RRP: We are really new in this industry but we can say that through the development of A Tale Of Paper we have had the opportunity to assist different events showing our game and meeting very interesting developers from [S]pain, and having seen the industry from the inside we can say that there is lots of talented and super motivated people doing amazing games and in the recent years there have been many [S]panish games released with a lot of international repercus[s]ion such as Gris, Blasphemous, Arise… which speaks for its own.
There are many opportunities arising nowadays and there are lots of initiatives that help indie game developers and companies develop their projects and some of them even give workspaces to do so. Although there is still a long way to go and lots of topics to work on such as “the crunch”, a really common practice in this industry that should disappear and here in Spain, such as in many other countries, we’re not free from it sadly.
OR: When can we expect A Tale of Paper to be released? Are there any plans to bring it to the PlayStation 5 as well?
RRP: It’s practically done, we can’t give any dates but we’ll see it very soon on the PlayStation Store.
As for now, we don’t plan to launch on PlayStation 5 (except from being backward compatible) but who knows.
OR: What is next for Open House Games?
RRP: We have some really interesting projects on mind and all of them are very different. We’ll see which one we’ll start developing, or maybe a sequel to A Tale of Paper? Who knows.
Are you excited for A Tale of Paper? What origami do you hope Line will be able to turn into?
Let us know in the comments below!
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